Editor’s blog: Trimble’s University Challenge to UK economy

I woke up this morning to find Gail Trimble, the captain of last night’s winning University Challenge team, doing a round of media interviews. This young woman is supposedly the cleverest contestant they’ve ever had on the show – half the time, she seemed to be answering Paxo’s questions before he’d even started asking them, from Euripides’ Bacchae to the Asian Dub Foundation. Unfortunately for her, this hasn’t gone down well on the weird wide web – every man and his blog has been slagging her off for being smug and arrogant. Suddenly she’s on Radio 4 trying to justify the fact that she’s got a brain the size of Canada.

Being clever isn’t very cool these days. To be fair, I’m not sure it ever was – generally speaking, clever politicians have never gone down very well with the public. ‘Too clever by half’ is a classic British put-down. But these days, when the papers are full of vacuous celebrities, it appears to be a lot easier to be famous without any discernable talents. Highly intelligent people – particularly women – just seem to make people suspicious, or resentful, or possibly both.

Given that the UK is supposed to be a knowledge economy these days, highly dependent on services, it strikes me as a pretty bad thing that people have such a downer on cleverness. How are we supposed to catch up with the countries that have surged ahead of us in education and skills when kids spend their lives watching gormless Big Brother contestants make a fortune on TV? (sorry though I am for Jade Goody). It tells you something that one of the first people on the phone to Ms Trimble yesterday were the blokey blokes at Nuts, who apparently wanted her to do a ‘tasteful photoshoot’ (they have those in Nuts?)

OK, so perhaps she came across as a little smug sometimes – but I probably would to, if I was that good at University Challenge (I’ve rarely seen Paxo gaze on someone so admiringly). And I know that being good at quizzes isn’t necessarily the same as being clever – but the fact that she’s doing a doctorate at Oxford suggests she’s probably quite smart too (although we have an Oxford classicist on staff at MT, sowe know for a fact they’re not all geniuses). Why can’t we just enjoy the fact that we’ve got someone on TV that actually has a brain in her head?

Of course in an ideal world, it would be nice to think that Ms Trimble will soon be putting her capacious brain to work for the benefit of UK plc – which let’s face it, needs all the help it can get at the moment. But unfortunately, it sounds like her ambitions extend no further than becoming a Classics don at Oxford. Shame.

In today’s bulletin:
Royal Mail row escalates as pension fund backs sale
Vodafone adds to gloom by shedding 500 UK jobs
Editor’s blog: Trimble’s University Challenge to UK economy
Honda engineers new CEO
Books Special: The Secrets of Success in Management, by Andrew Leigh

  • http://

    Whilst I agree with the majority of your blog, to state that potentially becoming a Classics don at Oxford would ignore the possibility of Gail Trimble’s future influence in this capacity on a student who does benefit UK plc. In the meantime, if in her 15 minutes of fame she inspires just one other young person to reach similar heights of academic achievement, humility and politeness, then it will be worth it.

  • http://

    Wasn’t this a team effort? Is Kevin Pietersen England? Or Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester? Or even Portugal, come to that? Undeniable humility and politeness and nice sense of humour…but just one part of the winning team.

  • http://

    I agree she was part of a winning team but every successful team has individuals that are more gifted than others. I hope Ms Trimble does go on to benefit the UK economy which has invested in her by under-writing the university system equally we should applaud her hard work or risk another economy like the US benefiting instead.

  • http://

    I truly admire Gail Trimble for her smartness and humility shown.
    I think, the media have got this the wrong way round – they clearly should be asking about the person/group that wrote the questions and not picking on the respondent.